Henplay

Edith & Blanchette, Rebecca Stebbins, 2013

Poor Edith and Blanchette. Life is rough for our two chickens when it rains non-stop for days on end. They shelter either under the solar panels or on the terrace of the barn, but in neither place do they look happy. When it gets really wet, or snows, they just stay in their henhouse, peeking out every few minutes to see if the sky is still falling.

 

The Wood Store, by Shoshanna Ahart, 2013

But cheer up girls, our guests LOVE you. Bordeneuve wouldn’t be Bordeneuve with the two of you. Look at the art you elicit, the adoration, the special treats, heck,  Rebecca was hand-feeding you after a few days. No one considers a stay here complete without a bunch of photos of you two buxom birds. People write and inquire about -your- health before even mentioning the cats, or us measly humans. You’re not destined for the dinner plate.  All we ask is that you each lay one gorgeous egg a day – and hey, if you want to eat the flea beetles that ravage the arugula, so much the better.

Late Afternoon Bordeneuve by Shoshanna Ahart

Edith and Blanchette came in our lives here when Sara, a flute pupil of mine, moved with her husband to the other side of France. Sara was fun to teach, not just because she was a hard-working student, but because she loved to cook Indian food. She would arrive at the end of my monstrously long working day, aromas of cumin, ginger and coriander wafting around her. By the end of her lesson, my stomach would growl uncontrollably, and I would race home thinking of curries and chutneys that I could make. One day she brought me the most amazing eggs. They were so big they didn’t fit in the eggbox properly. They had enormous, silken golden yolks and whites that beat up to astonishing heights.  After that first dozen, I couldn’t imagine ever cooking with any other eggs.  Then out of the blue, she asked if I would take her hens when she relocated with her husband.  A few weeks later, she showed up on my doorstep with a big cardboard box. Inside were the two fattest Sussex chickens I had ever seen.

“The third one died from overeating, hopefully you won’t indulge them so much” she told me. Blanchette is appropriately named for her color, and Edith is named for her comb that flops over like a famous French rock star named Edith. They hid in the bamboo for a few days and then began investigating their new home as seriously free, seriously ranging birds. With over an acre to peck and scratch, you wouldn’t think they’d be hungry, but they always come running at 6pm when their favourite crumble is scattered near the house.  A few scraps from evening dinner parties never go uneaten either.

They lay faithfully, Blanchette’s eggs are twice the size of Edith’s. But Edith’s eggs are prettier, a light speckled brown with a tell-tale dimple at one end. And my favourite thing about them? They are lunar hens. They stop laying on the fall equinox, moult and grumble for a month or two, then, on the winter solstice, out pop two golden eggs.

 

 

 

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